Florentine Cookies + The Cookiepedia Book Giveaway {Winners Announced}

Happy Spring!

Well, sort of. It’s still snowing on and off here in Southern Ontario, but I’m hopeful. The good news is that this week is the first week in over 9 months during which I’ve been able to frolic freely in the kitchen and bake anything I wish. So Florentine cookies it was. And you guys, these are amazing. See, quite awhile back, I became enamoured with my talented friend Stacy Adimando’s cookbook, The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics, and I’ve been dying to make something, or everything, from it. 

So when I spotted a recipe for Florentines in her book, I knew I had to make them. And although Florentines are known to be an Italian treat (as the name suggests), I first fell in love with these crunchy, nutty discs of caramelized delight back when I was a teenager working at an Austrian bakery. When I googled this, I realized that appears to be a small debate regarding the Florentine cookie’s origin, but it’s safe to say that it is celebrated in not only Italy and Austria, but now here in my kitchen.  These are the most decadent and surprisingly simple cookies to prepare in all of the land, and I’ll just never get over them. I won’t.

So what exactly is a Florentine? Well, there are some variations, but typically they are super-thin, round, caramelized almond cookies made from butter, sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt and of course almonds, and there is usually some form of dark chocolate added. As you probably noticed in my photos, these ones are drizzled with chocolate as Stacy’s recipe includes, but many have their entire bottoms dipped in chocolate with a distinct pattern added, and include additional ingredients, such as candied fruit. Think of them as individual, lacy almond brittles that shatter in your mouth like little round sheets of nutty, buttery, caramel crack. Sometimes it actually kind of freaks me out that we have the power to create such deliciousness in our own kitchens, especially when it only takes a matter of minutes.

Stacy explains that the idea behind her book was to give 50 classic cookie recipes, and then offer ways to spin them into more modern versions with tons of ideas for adapting the recipes for countless variations. So, for example, she shares a chocolate chip recipe, but also a dark chocolate sea salt chip. And a peanut butter cookie, but also a pistachio butter cookie, and so many more. One of the reasons I love Stacy’s book most, aside from the gorgeous photography and charming illustration work, is that the recipes range so greatly–think everything from frosted animal crackers to French macarons, sables to sesame crisps, and so many more.

I know you guys will adore this book, if you don’t already that is, so I’m excited to host a The Cookiepedia giveaway! I have 3 copies of this go-to cookie book, courtesy of Stacy and Quirk Books, and I will be sending a copy to 3 lucky readers!

I’m also excited to share this recipe for the Florentines–they truly are of the most exquisite cookies I have tasted in a long time. I’ve listed the recipe just as it is in the book, but I have also added the ingredient weights, just in case, as well as some of my own notes below.

Florentine Cookies with Chocolate Drizzles

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch round cookies

Decadent nutty, buttery, caramelized cookie discs drizzled in dark chocolate. Recipe as printed in The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (60 grams) corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (8 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/3 cups (210 grams) sliced almonds
  • 4 ounces (120 grams) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set them aside.
  2. Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup together over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Add the cream and salt and do the same.
  3. Let cook until the mixture comes to a full boil, and then add in the almonds and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes until the mixture thickens and starts to move around the pan in one mass. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Drop 4 small spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets, leaving as much room between them as possible (the baked cookies will spread to about triple the size).
  5. Using an offset spatula or a wet hand, spread and flatten the batter into 3-inch rounds, creating a thin layer.
  6. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until edges are brown and centers are just turning golden.
  7. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and immediately reshape the cookies back into 3-inch circles, using the offset spatula or the back of a spoon to drag the batter back into place and round the edges. The cookies will harden within a few minutes.
  8. tip: if they harden too fast, just return them to the oven for a minute or so.
  9. Cool the reshaped cookies until they are firm and cool enough to handle. Then move them to a wire rack covered with parchment paper to set completely.
  10. As the optional (though delicious and suggested) finisher, melt the chocolate, in a glass or metal bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops of the Florentines. Let harden.
  11. Florentine Ice Cream Sandwiches
  12. When the cookies have cooled completely, skip the chocolate drizzle. Let a container of coffee or vanilla ice cream sit out, or microwave at 10-second intervals, until it's soft enough to dollop. In the meantime, lay half the Florentines on a parchment-lined baking sheet flat side up. Drop a heaping spoonful of the softened ice cream (about 2-3 tablespoons) into the center of each. Top with the remaining cookies and press lightly to adhere. Cover the baking sheet loosely with foil and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used a 1-tablespoon capacity cookie scoop for my cookies, and they spread quite a bit, yielding more of a very thin, large 5 1/2-inch round cookie, but I love them this size, so I simply worked to round the edges when they first came out of the oven. Use about 1 teaspoon size spoon for 3-inch cookies, or somewhere in between.
  • Much like a caramel concoction of any kind, the longer you heat (bake) the cookies, the darker and more intense the caramel flavour and colour will be, so there is a little room for personal preference with the baking times. I baked 1 sheet at a time on the middle rack of the oven, and kept the cookies in for the full 8 minutes. Once they start to turn golden, they have the potential to burn very quickly, so I recommend keeping a super-close eye on them at that point, and remove them from the oven quickly.
  • It might seem as though it’s going to take a lifetime to bake 36 cookies when 4-to-a-tray, but at 8 minutes each, time, it goes by really quickly!
  • I just used a fork to “fling” the melted chocolate onto the cookies in a fun drizzly criss-cross pattern.
  • Stacy mentions that these cookies are best enjoyed right after cooling, and I can certainly agree that these are amazing in that window of time (I could not stop eating them), but I then sealed them in a Ziploc bag after the chocolate drizzle set, and they’re still going strong (ahem) and tasting fabulous at the end of day 2.

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Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Triple-Chocolate Sprinkle Birthday Cookies

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Friday!

So since my last post, our littlest cakelet, Neve Winter (aka Lovie) turned 3. How is this possible, you ask? And that just yesterday she was a baby, you say, celebrating her very first birthday? And that I just posted this wee cake for her 2nd birthday? I know–it’s kooky the way time flies. Well, it’s true and what a curious, hilarious and lovie-licious little cakelet she has become. You might have noticed that she’s all me (sorry, Grant!) and even though I’m only 25% Irish, I can’t help but sense she’s a true Irish cakelet–everything from the hair to her humour, she’s got so much of my mom’s side of the family in her. Here are a few images from the past 3 years that I feel really capture her:

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Sweet, sensitive, mysterious, mischievous, happy and humourous — that’s our Neve. ♥

When it was time to decide what birthday treats to make for her, of course my first instinct was cake (which I did do a few days after because, let’s be honest, birthday cake isn’t optional), but the truth is I am literally always making cake with the girls, and so albeit backwards, I felt that for her actual birthday, perhaps a real treat would be something we rarely make: decadent cookies.

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

Now the thing about Neve’s birthday is that it happened to be the same week as Reese’s first week in Senior Kindergarten and first day of ballet class, so there was a lot of excitement twirling, whirling and swirling around the house. I wanted to make a special treat that would make both of them happy, and Reese suggested “super chocolaty cookies with chocolate chips,” and Neve decided they should be “really sprinkly.”

Done, and done.

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

So we made super fudgy chocolate cookies using Callebaut melted bittersweet chocolate callets, Cacao Barry Extra Dark cocoa powder and more bittersweet chocolate callets, butter, brown sugar, pure vanilla and more, and then we made a quick and easy dark chocolate glaze using more butter and chocolate. Finally, we covered them in a sprinkle medley and edible gold stars. Everybody wins!

Neve had a few mini birthday celebrations filled with family, chocolate, sprinkles, cookies . . .

Birthday morning fairy bread  . . .

And one seriously chocolate cake a few days later while she and her Grandpa celebrated their birthdays together (recipe to follow!).

These cookies are certainly decadent with their rich, fudgy, chocolaty, gooey, crunchy, sprinkly-ness, but I won’t lie–I love how quick and easy they are to make. ♥

Happy Birthday to our little cakelet, and Happy Weekend to you!

Here’s the recipe:

Triple-Chocolate Sprinkle Birthday Cookies

Yield: 12 medium cookies

Ingredients

    For the cookies:
  • 1-1/2 cups (280 grams) quality bittersweet (extra dark) chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) Dutch-processed dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) sea salt
  • For the glaze:
  • 3/4 cup (140 grams) quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) light corn syrup
  • For decorating:
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

    Make the cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a Silpat baking mat.
  2. Place 1 cup of the chocolate and the butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of an inch of simmering (not boiling) water, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Meanwhile, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or handheld mixer), beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed, until well-combined. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry mixture until everything is incorporated, occasionally scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in remaining chocolate pieces/chips.
  4. Using two spoons or cookie scoop, drop 12 equal amounts onto baking sheet. Be sure to space them a few inches apart to allow for spreading in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until tops have a cracked appearance. (Be sure to not over-bake, or cookies will be dry and not fudgy.) Allow to cool on baking sheet on wire rack for 15 minutes, and then gently transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.
  5. Make the glaze:
  6. Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of an inch of simmering (not boiling) water until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  7. Decorate the cookies:
  8. Line a baking sheet or tray with wax paper (or parchment or baking mat) and fill a medium plate or bowl with sprinkles of choice.
  9. Dip each cooled cookie into the glaze so that half of the cookie is glazed and then holding the cookie over sprinkle bowl drop a handful of sprinkles over glaze and shake off excess. Place each one on prepared sheet until you have decorated all of them, and then place sheet/tray in the freezer or refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set.

Notes

[cookie dough adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Since the chocolate is the star of this show, I recommend using the best quality bittersweet chocolate possible. I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 % , because I love the flavour, and the callets (chips) are so easy to melt and measure. If bittersweet is too dark for your taste, I recommend using it for the cookies, but using semisweet for the glaze.
  • For measuring cookie dough and placing on the baking sheet, I always use this 50mm Cookie Scoop–perfectly round and even cookies every time, which I love. I also swear by the Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, but just note that they are a tiny bit too big for some cookie sheets. You want to make sure you have what they call a Bakers Half Sheet. I use these for everything!
  • For the sprinkles on my cookies, I used Rainbow Jimmies + Chocolate Vermicelli  mixed together prior to coating the cookies and then sprinkled edible Gold Stars on afterwards. This is also the method I used for the birthday fairy bread–sprinkled it right on top of buttered toast. ♥

Good luck & enjoy!



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Pink Éclairs {Winner of the Amy Atlas Sweet Designs Giveaway!}

Happy Wednesday! Here is the winner of the Amy Atlas Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It book giveaway:

#393 Patisserie Paris: “I like a more classic/elegant style for a dessert table!”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favourite dessert table/party themes and party treats!

See you soon with a sweet & summery recipe.

Today is the day! Amy Atlas, sweet table designer and blogger (and so much more) extraordinaire, is celebrating the release of her first book, Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It–and what a book it is. As you know, I love all things sweet and pretty, and this book is jam-packed with some of the loveliest and most wonderfully crafted dessert and party table ideas I’ve ever seen. Amy shares 175 recipes and seemingly countless crafty ideas for readers to whip up impressive (and charming) dessert displays. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this gem, and after reading it almost all in one sitting I am certainly inspired.

I’m excited to say that one lucky reader is going to win a copy of their own, courtesy of Amy!

Pink Eclairs via Sweetapolia

While reading the book, I was immediately drawn to the chapter entitled Pastel Pretty (naturally), which showcases the most appealing array of pastel sweets and baked goods that take center stage on an incredible dessert table inspired by–you guessed it–pastel colours (think pastel cotton candy, pastel sugar cookie rounds, pastel cake bites and more). When I spotted a recipe for “Pink Éclairs,” I was smitten. I love the idea of including authentic French éclairs on a dessert table (or of course making them for any day of the week) and tweaking them just slightly to give them a pretty twist. So I decided to make a batch. With the crispy pastry (classic Pâte à Choux dough, which is much easier than it sounds) filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with sweet pink glaze, they are every bit as delightful as you would expect “Pink Éclairs” to be.

Pink Eclairs via Sweetapolita

Although you might expect this treat to be a tricky one to make, Amy’s recipe was easy to follow and a great success. I’ve shared the recipe for these delights below, and I know this is only the beginning of my adventures with Sweet Designs.

And for even more celebratory posts in honour of Amy’s new book (and more chances to enter to win your own copy!), be sure to pop by and visit my friends:

Cheryl from Tidy Mom sharing Honey Panna Cotta

Marian from Sweetopia sharing Chocolate Beehive Cupcakes

Jamie from My Baking Addiction sharing Banana Whoopie Pies

Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle

Darla from Bakingdom sharing Mini Strawberry Trifles

Bridget from Bake at 350 sharing Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod sharing Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Amanda from I am Baker sharing Chocolate Cupcakes

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What type of party/dessert table theme best suits your personality?” (eg. modern, preppy, vintage, superhero, rainbow, etc.) or “What was the last party treat you made (or enjoyed)?

2. For an extra entry you can tweet: “I want to win a copy of @amyatlas ‘s amazing new book, Sweet Designs, from @Sweetapolita!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends May 1, 2012 at midnight (EST) and winners will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear right away.

*Prize courtesy of Amy Atlas. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

And here is the recipe for the Pink Éclairs, as written in the book Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It, by Amy Atlas:

Pink Éclairs

Yield: 12-14 4-inch éclairs

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 egg yolks

1 cup whole milk

1 cup half-and-half

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Pâte à Choux

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

For the Glaze

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Pink food coloring gel

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined; set aside.

2. Combine the milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it simmers. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and two or three large bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the vanilla and butter. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 3 hours.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Quickly stir in the flour and continue to stir until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir for 2 minutes more (a film may form on the bottom of the pan–this is okay).

4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the mixture cools slightly and the steam disappears, about 3 minutes.

5. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to completely incorporate after each addition. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

6. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag fitted with a round tip (Wilton Round Tip #1a). Pipe 12 to 14 straight 4-inch lines, spaced 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheet.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, do not open the oven door. At this point, the éclairs will be puffed and golden brown. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake until éclairs appear dry and are a deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Do not underbake; this may cause the éclairs to collapse. Let cool completely on pan.

8. When éclairs have cooled, use a small skewer to poke a hold in either end of each one. Gently move the skewer around the inside the éclair to clear a space for the cream.

9. Spoon the cooled pastry cream into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag fitted with a Wilton Round Tip #230. Fill éclairs with pastry cream from both ends, taking care to not overfill.

10. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Stir in a few drops of pink food coloring until the desired color is achieved. Hold an éclair over the bowl of glaze, spoon the glaze over it, and spread to coat the top. Place the éclairs in individual rectangular treat cups and arrange on a rectangular platter in a single layer. Replenish platter as necessary.

I had so much fun making these decadent and pretty-as-can-be éclairs, and now off I go to bake, craft and style everything else in this incredible book.

Good luck & enjoy!


Related posts:

Chocolate-Dipped Brownies {and a Giveaway!}

Chocolate-Dipped Brownies via Sweetapolita

*This giveaway is closed, but the recipe is still divine!

I love rich, silky chocolate. I also love brownies. And, well, sprinkles are my soul mate, so can someone please tell me how I never thought to marry them into one delightful and decadent bar before? It all makes so much sense, but yet, somehow, it never dawned on me.

So there I was, poring over every single recipe in the new book, Taste of Home Baking, All NEW Edition: 725+ Recipes & Variations from Classics to Best Loved!, and there it was: a recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Brownies. Needless to say I sashayed to the kitchen to whip these up, and although I wasn’t surprised, they tasted a good as I suspected they would. The reason I really enjoy this baking book so much, is because it’s made up seemingly endless (I think it’s almost 800!) recipes that have been contributed by home-bakers all over North America (I even spotted a recipe from a woman in Kitchener, Ontario, my home town, which I found very exciting for some reason). That aside, every single recipe in the book has been tested in the Taste of Home test kitchen, so there’s this comfort of knowing that the recipes are reliable and trusted.

*The sweetest gifts: From coffee cakes to cookies, Taste of Home Baking: All-New Edition offers dozens of home-baked gift ideas, and the book itself makes a valuable holiday gift; it comes with a free year subscription to Taste of Home (within the U.S.)

* Trimmed-down favorites, specially designed for health-conscious readers or those who have food allergies, such as gluten-free options.

* Troubleshooting tips that can help any home baker turn exasperation into elation, including step-by-step photos. 

*These are down-to-earth recipes that will warm the hearts of families who know the simple pleasure of gathering around the kitchen table for fresh-from-the-oven happiness.

Because I have a real thing for family recipes and comfort baking, I really connected with the whole concept of this book and, of course can’t help but feel the need to bake everything in it! The even better news is that the sweet folks from Taste of Home have generously provided me with a copy of this beautiful book to give away to one lucky reader (it also comes along with a year subscription to their Taste of Home magazine.). Some of the recipes that leapt off the pages (and are on my to-make list) are the Hot Milk Cake, Caramel Butter Cake, Peanut Butter Truffle Cupcakes, Candy Bar Meringue Torte (just to name a few) and, of course, these Chocolate-Dipped Brownies.

I found these to be a great make-with-the-kids treat, which always means a lot to me. They don’t even require an electric mixer, which is always a welcomed change. Reese was at school the morning we made these, but little Neve and I had a great time making them together (don’t worry, Reese got her taste test in after school!). I had Neve on sprinkle duty and, as you can probably bet, she didn’t mind.

Dipped Brownies via Sweetapolita

What is it about sprinkles that make life that much better?

Sweetapolita

The same goes for cute little cakelets.

Sweetapolita

 An official Sprinkle Sprinkler–imagine if that was a paying gig? Sign me up.

Dipped Brownies via Sweetapolita

I’m thinking these would be a nice addition to a Halloween party dessert table or to give away to close neighbours, friends and family as homemade Halloween treats. They would also, of course, be a nice addition to pretty much any day of the year.

For a chance to win this epic book, here are some giveaway details:

Here’s how to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite baked good is. That’s it!

2. For an extra entry, tweet about this post (with the link) and include @Sweetapolita, then come back and let me know.

3. For an extra entry, tell your friends on Facebook (with the link), then pop back over here to let me know.

*Giveaway Completed

Winner will be chosen on Wednesday, October 26th at 12pm EST using random.org. Any entries received after this time will not be considered.

Be sure to check back for see if you’re the winner!

Here’s the recipe for these decadent (but simple!) treats:

Chocolate-Dipped Brownies        {click to print}

From Taste of Home Baking, All NEW Edition: 725+ Recipes & Variations from Classics to Best Loved!, contributed by Jackie Archer, Clinton, Iowa

Yield: 24 bars (1″ x 2.5″)

Ingredients

3/4 cup (150 g/5 oz) sugar

1/3 cup butter (75 g/2.5 oz), cubed

2 tablespoons (30 mL) water

4 cups (685 g/24 oz) semisweet chocolate chips, divided (I used premium chocolate for 2 cups dipping portion) – Callebaut Dark Callets 53.8 % (2 lb)

1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup (100 g) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt

1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda

2 tablespoons (30 mL) shortening

Chopped pecans, jimmies, and/or nonpareils (optional)

Method

1. In a large saucepan, bring the sugar, butter, and water to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat; stir in 1 cup of chocolate chip and vanilla until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes.

2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda; stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking pan.

3. Bake at 325°F for 35 minutes or until set (see my note below). Cool completely on a wire rack. Place in the freezer for 30-40 minutes or until firm (do not freeze completely). Cut into bars.

4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chips with shortening; stir until smooth. Using a small fork, dip brownies to completely coat; shake off excess. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with pecan, jimmies and/or nonpareils. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container.

*Dipping Bars in Chocolate

* Melt the chocolate chips, baking chocolate or candy coating according to recipe directions. If necessary, transfer chocolate to a narrow container.

* To cover an entire bar in chocolate, use two forks to dip the bar into the chocolate and lift up. Gently shake the bar to remove excess chocolate. Place on a waxed-paper lined baking sheet to set at room temperature.

* If the chocolate cools too much to the bars properly, rewarm and continue dipping.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For easy removal of the baked brownie, I grease the pan and then line with parchment paper with an inch or so of overhang. Once brownies are cool and have been in the freezer for the 30 minutes, I then remove from pan using parchment overhang and place brownie on cutting board for clean and easy cutting.
  • Because this recipe calls for so much chocolate, I used standard chocolate chips for the brownie and premium chocolate for the dipping (I use semisweet Callebaut Dark Callets 53.8 % (2 lb))
  • I tend to like my brownies a little less cakey and bake them for less time than more, so I baked mine for 25 minutes (remove as soon as the top starts to crackle).
  • I cut the brownies into 1″ x 2.5″ bars before dipping.
  • I didn’t have shortening on hand, so I used 1 tablespoon of white corn syrup in its place.

Good luck & enjoy!



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Glazed Root Beer Funnel Cakes with Fresh Blueberries

Rootbeer Funnel Cakes via Sweetapolita

I think, no I’m certain, my first experience with Funnel Cake was at Canada’s Wonderland–a huge amusement park near Toronto that dominates pretty much all of my amusement park memories. I’ve been there more times than I can count as a younger girl, and it was likely the single most exciting expedition my friends and I would plan. But, most exciting to me was that we knew once we arrived, the funnel cakes were ours. Hot, sugary, old-fashioned-donut-tasting funnel cakes smothered in strawberries ‘n sauce and whipped cream (no ice cream alongside cake for this girl, but some love it this way too, of course). I haven’t been there in years, but I recall they seemed, at the time, to be the biggest funnel cakes in history, almost too big to even fit on the large paper plate they served them on.

As you may suspect, I got through most of mine, and much more than my friends ever did, that’s for certain (I was known as a bit of a phenomenon on how much food I could consume), but it was even too much for me to finish. I actually recall standing beside the garbage can a-la-Miranda-on-Sex-and-the-City-and-the-chocolate-cake, and trying to throw the last few bites away, but just couldn’t — I would sneak just a few more. Was it because it was the most delicious carnival treat that has ever existed? Possibly. But, mostly, I knew that it would be likely a long, painful, empty year before I was going to taste another one. Tragic indeed.

Rootbeer Funnel Cakes via Sweetapolita

It wasn’t until many years later, in 2007, after my cousin Julie emailed me asking if I wanted to come over and make funnel cakes with her (um, okay!), that I realized you could easily make these at home. At the time I made these with Julie, I was really just along for the ride — she had it all figured out, and I just watched, really. I was amazed at how authentic they really tasted and looked, and how it easy it all was. Strangely, I have never attempted to make funnel cakes on my own, and I haven’t eaten one since that day . . . until earlier this week.

When I first searched for the recipe online, I found many very traditional versions including one that cloned my beloved Canada Wonderland’s funnel cake, but then I came across this fabulous twist on the traditional on Fine Cooking, by Judith Fertig. I’m so glad I found it, because it’s how it’s how I discovered Judith’s gorgeous book, Heartland: The Cookbook, from which this recipe is taken. Her book “melds contemporary cooking with an authentic and appreciative approach to the land, presenting 150 recipes for farm-bounty fare with a modern twist,” and, oh, this speaks to me. This type of baking just calls to me. For some reason, although I wasn’t raised in the country, but rather a mid-size city surrounded by gorgeous countryside and farms, I have always been so drawn to the history, the food, and the sense of family that surrounds country life. I’ve ordered this book, and I simply cannot wait to dig in.

Rootbeer Funnel Cakes via Sweetapolita

For this recipe, we use actual Root Beer in the batter and add a glaze made with Root Beer extract to really embrace the the flavour, but otherwise the result still holds onto tradition in its sweet and crispy, old-fashioned, carnival-worthy qualities. I have to admit that, typically, I tend to avoid making deep-fried treats for a few reasons, including the fact that, even though I will share baked goods with my cakelets, the thought of giving them deep-fried goodies makes me a bit uneasy. That being said, Funnel Cakes are in a realm of their own, and they are most definitely a delicious treat to bring out once a year, or so. I so enjoyed this Root Beer version, and I love tradition-with-a-twist. Simply put, these are incredibly simple to make, absolutely delicious and unique, and bring me right back to childhood. I topped them with the glaze, a handful of plump blueberries, and a generous sprinkling of icing sugar.

With the recent crispness in the air, it’s a perfect time for this warm, sweet, and hearty dessert. I can imagine wandering a small country fair in autumn, cozy in a knit sweater, and soaking up the sun and cool breeze on my cheeks. Wishing you and your family a wonderful autumn-is-in-the-air weekend!

Root Beer Funnel Cakes with Fresh Blueberries         {click to print}

*Root Beer Funnel Cake recipe by Judith Fertig from the book Heartland: The Cookbook

*I have added the weight measurements and a few tips at the bottom of the recipe.

For the Funnel Cakes

Vegetable oil, for frying

1-1/2 cups (188 grams/6.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) cream of tartar

2 tablespoons (30 grams/1 ounce) granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 cup (236 mL) root beer

For the Root Beer Glaze

1/2 cup (63 grams) confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) root beer extract (such as root beer flavor extract – 8 fl oz)

1 tablespoon (15 mL) half-and-half or whole milk

Fresh berries of your choice, for garnish

Make the funnel cakes:

In a large, deep skillet, pour in enough vegetable oil to reach 1 inch. Heat to 375°F over medium-high heat.Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk the egg and root beer together in a cup, then whisk this mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth.When the oil has reached the correct temperature, hold your finger over the bottom of a large kitchen funnel with a 1/2-inch diameter spout and pour ¾ cup batter into the funnel. Hold the funnel over the center of the skillet, remove your finger, and with a circular motion starting from a center point, let the batter create either a tight or freeform spiral in the hot oil. Fry until the funnel cake is light brown on one side, then carefully flip with a pancake turner and fry on the other side until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let the oil come back to the correct temperature and repeat the process with the remaining batter.

Glaze the funnel cakes:

Whisk the confectioners’ sugar, root beer extract, and half-and-half together in a small bowl. Drizzle over each funnel cake, then dust with more confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh berries.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

1. I didn’t have a large kitchen funnel, so I used a large pastry bag and a 1/2″ piping tip. The batter is very runny, like pancake batter, so you have to act quickly. I placed the piping bag into tall glass very close to my pan, and folded the cuff of the bag over the rim of the glass. I measured 3/4 cup of batter, then poured it into the piping back, then quickly poured into the oil, in the same circular motion as described in recipe.

2. Since you are making one cake at a time, it’s definitely not ideal to make for more than just a few people.

3. I used a candy thermometer to ensure the temperature of 375°F.

Good luck & enjoy!



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